Educational Programs: #EXT100Years

May 9, 2014 in 2-year, 4-year


This post is the part of a series commemorating the 100-Year anniversary of the signing of the Smith-Lever Act which officially created the national Cooperative Extension Service.

Read More about the 100-year anniversary of Cooperative Extension.

Educational Programs

Penn State offers several options for an education in turfgrass management: The four-year bachelor’s degree program prepares students for a wide variety of careers in the turfgrass industry, and masters and Ph.D. programs offer opportunities for advanced studies. Penn State, in fact, holds the distinction of graduating the first Ph.D. in turfgrass management.  Penn State World Campus is another option for students who want to earn credits through distance learning. Penn State’s educational programs in turfgrass management have graduated thousands of turf managers who can be found in the industry throughout the world.

Chances are, any golf course superintendent you ask has heard about Penn State’s two-year golf turf program—and could very well be an alum of that program. Since 1957, Penn State has offered a certificate in golf course turfgrass management for individuals interested in careers as golf course superintendents. Graduates can be found at top golf courses around the country and around the world.

“Our two-year program is one of the things that put us on the map,” according to the late George Hamilton, who served as technical advisor for the two-year program from 1992 until 2004. “It’s a career enhancement program that provides accelerated training for people who may have been in the golf course industry for a couple of years and want to move up, or for someone in a different industry who’s ready for a change. Most of our students have taken college courses, and a lot of them have college degrees. They need the technical expertise to enable them to do a job, and that’s what the two-year program is all about.”

It used to be that undergraduate agronomy students interested in careers in the turfgrass industry were offered only two courses that provided broad overviews of turfgrass management. But since 1992, thanks to the efforts of Donald Waddington, professor emeritus of soil science, and Tom Watschke, professor of turfgrass science, students have the option of earning a bachelor’s degree in turfgrass science designed to prepare graduates for a broad range of professions in the industry.

“Sometime in the early 1980s,” says Watschke, “Don and I thought we should develop a major in turf. Don really spearheaded the effort—he developed the nuts and bolts of the curriculum—and when he retired it fell to me. I used to teach Agronomy 36, a course that touched on everything from how to put a grass plant in the ground to what do you do after it grows—and you just don’t get much done. You can’t cover everything in sufficient detail. So to build a turf curriculum, we separated the pieces and made them courses in their own right. Now there’s a course in just weed control. There’s a course in just soil properties. There’s a course in just pesticides.”

Read more here…